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Horace grabs more land

A land battle between Fargo and Horace heated up again Monday, when Fargo city leaders voted to annex 795 acres in response to Horace taking action to more than double its size.

Graphic: Proposed annexation

A land battle between Fargo and Horace heated up again Monday, when Fargo city leaders voted to annex 795 acres in response to Horace taking action to more than double its size.

The Horace City Council voted May 1 to extend city limits by roughly 3,000 acres, or nearly 5 square miles. Current city limits surround about 3 square miles.

Fargo officials said they didn't hear about Horace's action until Wednesday and didn't know the motivation behind it.

"It doesn't make a lot of sense to us," Mayor Bruce Furness said.

Horace Mayor John Goerger said all property owners in the proposed annexation area signed petitions asking Horace to annex them.


"You've got the big city (of Fargo) there, and they can totally surround us, and you've got a lot of people who moved out there because they didn't want to live in Fargo," he said.

One of the quarter-sections of land in Horace's proposed annexation area is east of 57th Street South, in an area where Fargo planned its future growth, Fargo Planning Director Jim Gilmour said.

Fargo's proposed area of annexation includes about 160 acres of Fargo Park District land, about 320 acres of land being leased by contractors and another 160 acres owned by housing developer Eid-Co, Gilmour said.

"It's quite a leap," he said. "We're down to 112th Avenue South with this annexation. It's not the way we'd like to grow."

Horace's latest action means Fargo will probably have to settle for growth to the north and south, Furness said.

There will be a public hearing on Fargo's proposed annexation in about six months. Gilmour said he believes more than 80 percent of the property owners in the area will support the action.

However, Goerger said some residents just east of Horace want to be annexed into the city of 1,034 people.

"So, some of that (land) might end up being in dispute," he said.


Fargo and Horace are already in mediations over two sections of land between Horace and West Fargo.

Furness lamented the state law that says whichever city passes a resolution of annexation first has rights to that land.

"Everybody's out to get the land, and then they figure out what to do with it," he said. "That's completely counter to the way it should be done and the way we were doing it before. You should be working with the property owners and gradually bringing it in as you expand."

Legislation at the state level appears to be the only way to resolve the issue, he said.

Goerger said that while Fargo officials might say they don't like the annexation process, "they do it all the time," forcing rural property owners to hire lawyers to fight the city. He questioned whether Fargo officials consulted with property owners before acting to annex the 795 acres.

"Now you've got a bunch of property owners out there that are probably terrified that they're going to have all these specials put on them," he said, referring to the special assessments Fargo uses to pay for infrastructure.

Goerger said Horace won't extend infrastructure to its annexed areas unless property owners ask for it. The city's sewer system has enough capacity for two developing areas within current city limits, but it could be expanded, he said.

"Nobody needs it right now, but if they need it, we'll get it to them," he said.


Goerger said his father, Don Goerger, initially brought up the annexation at a City Council meeting and then circulated the petitions among property owners.

In other business, commissioners unanimously voted to direct city staff to explore a tax-increment financing district to support a major redevelopment project at the northeast corner of 19th Avenue North and University Drive.

Developer Jim Roers briefly addressed the commission, but released no new details about the project. In a letter last week, he said his company has options to buy seven privately owned properties totaling 2.74 acres.

The mix of office and commercial space and college housing would increase the value of the property from $854,900 to more than $14 million, Roers said.

City Commissioner John Cosgriff said he believes the project would qualify for TIF urban renewal incentives.

City Commissioner Mike Williams, who has historically opposed TIF districts, called Roers' project an exciting development and a chance for the city to look at changing how it grants TIF districts. Traditional TIF districts rely on rising property taxes to generate revenue, and if current efforts to reduce property taxes are successful, "that takes a lot of horsepower out of the TIF," Williams said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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